LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A blistering heat wave has swept across most parts of north and western India, causing massive electricity cuts and leading angry residents to protest and even attack power company officials and property.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, enraged citizens have set fire to a power station and held power company employees hostage for several hours. Police said Thursday that at least 21 people have been arrested for the violence and for damaging government property.
Uttar Pradesh, home to 190 million people, is India's most populous state and one of the poorest. Its inadequate energy infrastructure has been unable to cope with the high demand for electricity as temperatures have peaked above 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) in recent days.
The power shortages have left people without air conditioning or fans — and in some cases without water, as electric pumps failed — for hours each day. Uttar Pradesh has only 8,000 megawatts of electricity available against a demand of about 11,000 megawatts, forcing officials to schedule power cuts.
People set fire to a power station to protest power cuts in Bahraich, a town 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of state capital Lucknow, while in Gorakhpur town, enraged people held power employees captive for more than 18 hours.
In Lucknow, residents of one neighborhood lost electricity for more than 50 hours. They came out on the streets and staged a protest outside the home of a local lawmaker.
"We were awake the whole night. This morning the power line was restored after our protest. There was no water, as no electricity means power pumps did not work. Small children were crying," resident Shankuntala Rastogi said.
The state's chief minister, Akilesh Yadav, said in a statement that the government was trying its best to provide enough power.
The high temperatures are expected to continue through the week, local weather officials said.
Several neighborhoods in the national capital New Delhi have also suffered several hour-long power cuts this week amid searing temperatures.
Western India also sizzled, with temperatures in parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra states hovering between 47 to 48 degrees C (116 to 118 F).